Chinese Navy could have 5 aircraft carriers by the end of the decade

The Chinese army continues to strengthen: By the end of the decade, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) could operate five aircraft carriers and 10 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. More importantly, Beijing is currently maintaining the necessary resources to continue its naval modernization efforts.

These are the conclusions of a new report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, entitled “China’s choices – a new tool to assess the modernization of the PLA.” According to the nonpartisan Policy Research Institute, China and the United States are entering a period of heightened military competition, and it warned that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) modernization goals currently seem affordable, at least for the next decade. The PLA can continue to build a range of major energy project platforms for global operations.

This could include aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, blue water logistics ships and strategic bombers, as well as strategic transport and supply aircraft.

Rapid supply could come at a cost

However, Beijing will not be able to sustain such expansion indefinitely, and the report further notes that PLAN will face increasing operating and maintenance (O&M) cost pressure over the next decade due to rapid supply – especially large surface combatants, including the aircraft carrier.

However, Beijing could push this issue further down the roadas operating and maintenance costs are unlikely to be a major impediment to ongoing modernization efforts.

Already, PLAN has launched two domestically built aircraft carriers – in addition to the refurbished flattop it acquired from Ukraine – and is now reportedly on track to build a fourth carrier. Given China’s shipbuilding capabilities, it is quite likely that a fifth flattop could also be built by the end of the decade, especially if the PLAN continues to focus on conventionally powered carriers.

The conventional choice is more likely as China’s naval nuclear reactor technology is apparently not advanced enough to support an aircraft carrier, and instead Beijing could focus on refining the technology through its fleet. of submarines – then adapting it later for carriers that might be built in the next decade.

The type 004 transporter, which is probably in the early stages of development, could still be significantly larger than current ships – displacing between 90,000 and 100,000 tons. This would put it on par with the United States Navy Gerald R. Ford-a kind of supercarriers, and be significantly larger than the Falcon kitten-class, which was the last American class of conventionally powered flattops.

Even if it is conventionally powered, it would probably be a big step up for the PLAN over its Type 001 liaoningan unfinished Soviet-era warship that Ukraine sold to China and was not completed until 2012.

How much does China spend?

Although the report warns of what China might do, the authors must have largely speculated on the costs. Jack Bianchi, one of the report’s lead authors, said the CSBA does not try to predict China’s actual defense budget since Beijing no longer details equipment, training and sustainment, and personnel costs in the figures it publishes.

Instead, the CSBA used US spending percentages for research and development, procurement, sustainment, and disposal of specific weapons systems and applied them to China, USNI News reported.

However, such projects will not come cheap. Although Beijing clearly has the wherewithal to complete its modernization as the nation begins to face demographic decline – the lingering question is whether the nation can afford to sustain it. It would seem like a bad investment, considering the sustainability costs. It could be China’s last big leap forward followed by two steps back.

Chinese J-11 fighter. Image credit: Creative Commons.

China’s Military Rise: What the Experts Told Us

“China could very well have four or more aircraft carriers and a very modern and sophisticated submarine fleet by 2030, I have no doubt,” explained Harry J. Kazianisthe author of the book Tao of A2/AD and a specialist in Chinese military strategy and tacticalexplained to 19fortyfive. “However, we must bear in mind that the US military seems determined to ensure that it can keep up with Beijing’s naval rise while allowing its allies to develop their own naval capabilities. We are rapidly heading towards a naval arms race in Asia – and it is only just beginning in many ways.

Expert Biography: Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites with over 3,000 articles published over a twenty-year career in journalism. He writes regularly on military hardware, the history of firearms, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing author for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

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